Glad it's over

Well, today is the last day of 2005 (at least in my time zone), and I'm glad this year is over. It wasn't a horrible year, just sort of an uneventful one, especially compared to what is coming up. The upcoming year will bring challenges and new experiences, which is what I've wanted for a while. I felt like I was slipping into a rut, but I don't forsee much more slippage for a while, if ever again. Well, it's hard to say that, but the freshness of doing the part-time media gig will keep me stimulated for a long time.


Empty storehouse

I've been taping Star Trek: The Next Generation since the summer because I had no interest in it when it first came out in the 80's and 90's. At this point, I think I've seen most of the episodes, but I've realized that I have a problem: I didn't pace myself. During the holidays, they're not broadcasting any shows, and since I've seen everything on the tapes, the video storehouse is empty, so there's really not much decent TV to watch.

I was so excited that I had so many TNG episodes taped, I stayed up very late to watch them almost every night. As I was going through sleep deprivation, I kept telling myself to be careful, because if I kept watching so many at a time, one day I would have nothing left. And the day has arrived.

It's sort of like spending too much money: you know you should budget, but then you're tempted to spend a lot of money at once, and then when the time comes when you need money for a rainy day, you don't have much left. The same can be said about groceries before a snowstorm: you know you should pile some up because you'll be stuck when the snow comes.

But there's also another problem: I neglected Deep Space Nine because I thought I wouldn't like it, and then when I decided to give it a try and tape those episodes along with TNG, I'd only acquired a few by the time the holiday programming rolled around. If only I would have given DS9 a try even a month before! Then I would have those episodes to enjoy during the holiday season.

So now I'm without both, and soon I won't be able to stay up late anymore because I'll have to start driving a distance to the radio gig, which means early mornings and early bedtimes. It's an entertainment crisis!

Oh yeah, the new year will also bring a programming change:

"[Next] Generation" starts January 8 on G4; it will continue to run on Spike TV as well with time-period restrictions keeping the programs from running in the same daypart. Spike TV will continue to run other "Trek" spinoffs including "Deep Space 9." "Trek" will begin on G4 in the second quarter.

So now my taping schedule will be more complex. Oh, such problems of we who live in comfort!


simple Mandarin audio sites

Speaking of Mandarin, I found a couple of sites with audio files:

Basic phrases and vocabulary and Simple and compound tones.

ee ba ba

In an ESL class I teach, we were talking about shopping at an outlet mall in a Chicago suburb, and when the class ended, I heard someone say "ee ba ba" in Mandarin.

Lately I've been concentrating harder on what the heck Mandarin speakers are saying, because otherwise, I'd be wasting my language-listening time. After all, what's the point of listening to a language I've studied even briefly if I'm not going to try to understand what people are saying? I can use the skimpy knowledge I have and try to make sense out of a sliver of "blah blah blah" among the crazy tones. I even do it with Spanish--eavesdrop on conversations that I don't totally understand.

I thought for a moment, and then used the context to make an educated guess: they were probably talking about the expressway I-88, since "ba ba" is "8 8", and we had already talked about the outlet mall in English. So I asked them, and I was right! "Ee ba ba" was I-88.

The last time this type of deduction occurred was this past weekend, when someone said "cha ei" (I don't remember exactly the second word, my Mandarin is so lame) while standing near some eggs. I guessed "tea eggs" and I was right, which surprised the egg-talkers.

Sometimes I use Japanese to try to understand Mandarin. Such as the time we were talking about the word "gifted" in class. Someone asked another student in Mandarin what it meant, and a student said "tien sai" which is similar to the Japanese "tensai" which means "genius" more than "gifted." (However, at this point, I wonder if that's the only meaning. Perhaps it could mean "gifted" in certain contexts.) Anyway, I told the students, "no, it's not that meaning" and everyone was shocked because I had understood what they were talking about.

So, I guess I've discovered another way to surprise people. Which means if I study more Mandarin words, I'll be able to understand and scare even more people until they start to assume I can decifer whatever they say.


Online Gaelic lessons

Okay, here's something obscure which people should know about nevertheless: Gaelic Lessons On-line, which proclaims "B' fheàrr Gàidhlig briste na Beurla cliste. (Better broken Gaelic than polished English)"

Jordan at Macvaysia said, "There are fourteen Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) lessons and eleven Scottish Gaelic (Gaidhlig) ones, along with several readings in each dialect."

He's possibly the only person I've heard of who's studied it. And I guess he has the motivation to do it, since that's his ancestry.

A cool site that would be useful for Gaelic fans everywhere.


International holidays

I have had an international holiday weekend. First, I went to a Christmas Eve party where I was surrounded by several Chinese Mandarin speakers and lots of tasty homemade Chinese food. I think it's time I resumed the study of Chinese. It would come in handy to at least laugh at the jokes with everyone else, or at least know which food item they're talking about.

Then on Christmas, I went to a service where Luke 2:10-11 (But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord") was read in the following languages:


For a language fan like me, it was exciting and worthy of nerdy appreciation. And some people sang in Chinese, Thai, and Swahili, so it added a special dimension to the multilingual celebration.

After that, I went to a Christmas party to eat delicious and artery-busting Scandanavian food (Swedish pancakes, sausage, cheese, cakes, fruit soup) among European-decent people and Asians, most of whom stayed away from the food. Their loss.

Finally, I ended the day with the first night of Chanukah (Hanukkah). The best food to eat on Chanukah are latkes, which are potato pancakes. The key is to have good homemade latkes, and I think I've eaten the best throughout the years (a German recipe), so I've been satisfied.

The only way to reverse the international weekend is to make sure that I exercise all that wonderful food off so that I don't have to make any weight-related New Year's resolutions.


Jesus and Chanukah

It's interesting that Christmas and Chanukah (or Hanukkah--who knows what the correct transliteration is) are on the same day. Actually, it won't be Chanukah until the sun sets. But the two holidays will intersect sometime today.

Without going into a lot of detail, there's a lot of paranoia going around about the whole "Merry Christmas" issue among people I know, on both sides of the "aisle". So I'm going to show the world that Chanukah is mentioned in the New Testament. What's ironic is that Christmas is not a Biblical holiday, though the birth of Jesus, of course, is mentioned in the Bible (even though the birth was probably in the fall instead of the winter).

And Jesus was around when Chanukah (the Feast of Dedication) was happening (horrors! to some Jewish people who don't believe he was Jewish).

From John 10:22-30 (New Living Translation):

It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah. He was at the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon's Colonnade. The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, "How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."

Jesus replied, "I have already told you, and you don't believe me. The proof is what I do in the name of my Father. But you don't believe me because you are not part of my flock. My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. So no one can take them from me. The Father and I are one."

John 10:22-23 in the Amplified (which tries to take all words and meanings into consideration, thus the brackets are theirs): "After this the Feast of Dedication [of the reconsecration of the temple] was taking place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in Solomon's Porch in the temple area."

And finally, the New International Version (NIV) of the same: "Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade."


Snow in Bethlehem

I was going to do a smart-aleck post about the fact that we see a lot of manger scenes with snow, but since Bethlehem is in the Middle East, and it doesn't snow there, why should we put up with the inaccuracies?

But then I found an article about snow in the Middle East from a few years ago, and even found an image of Bethlehem covered with snow.

I wanted to post the Bethlehem image here, but I'm afraid the site will be mad because they don't want their images shared publically without purchase. So please see the proof yourself.

So the image posted here shows Jerusalem in snow, from the BBC.



I'm feeling quite hyper because the new year is going to be different (in a good way). I got a cool behind-the-scenes gig at a radio station, and I'm very excited! Which means that I fulfilled a New Year's resolution, just in the nick of time.

I made a few resolutions this year and may not have fulfilled all of them, but at least satisfied the most important one: to find an interesting job. Working in radio will definitely be interesting.

Which makes me wonder if I should change my sig name again. And/or get my hair cut (my hair is shoulder length right now). There's a lot to look forward to.


Another brain

I'm becoming overwhelmed by the brain power online. I discovered a very smart guy via Language Hat: Joel at Far Outliers. He has a lot of info and insights over there about the world, and he seems like a really international guy. Check out more about him at his profile:

I've been an exception, an outlier, a foreigner, a barbarian and a contrarian for most of my life. Been referred to and sometimes even addressed as 'foreigner' for many years of my life: gaijin in Japanese neighborhoods, ngabchay in a Micronesian village, bumewe in a New Guinea village, waiguoren (or its local equivalent) in China, even haole in Hawai`i. (Romania is a longer story.)

I don't know if I should be scared or awed of all the virtual braininess that's emerging out there.


Orny in Chicago

I just found out that Orny Adams is going to come to Chicago, but we'll have to wait a while. He's coming in October of next year. Anything can happen by then. Actually, I don't want to think too much about it--it's too far away, and a *lot* can happen. Let's hope we're all still around. Yikes. Seems scary. So distant.

Anyway, he'll be in Orland Park, which is a suburb that's not very close to the city, but hopefully I'll still have a functioning car by then.

House of bread

It didn't hit me until much later, even though I studied Hebrew when I was growing up: Bethlehem is "beit lechem" (בית לחם), which means "house of bread." And then I read this: "Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty..."

Coincidence? He was born in Bethlehem, the "house of bread," and then made that statement. I'm sure there are more bread references in the Bible, but I'm sort of too lazy to find them or think too deeply about it.


Holiday cheer

I don't know who created it, but there's a funny seasonal greeting floating around out there that should not offend anyone:

From us (the "Wishor") to you (hereinafter called the "Wishee"), please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all and a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year [2005], but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, and having regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or dietary preference of the Wishee.

And then there's a list of seven terms that completes the legalese, including:

Any references in this greeting to "the Lord", "Father Christmas", "Our Saviour", or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

Just trying to contribute to the holiday cheer amidst all the madness.


"Nationally known"

I was listening to an interview recently, and the interviewee was introduced as "Nationally known author and speaker...". I don't like to post names of people I don't particularly respect, but in this case, I totally forgot who that "nationally known" person was.

Which helps support my main point: often, "nationally known" does not mean what it is meant to be. If someone truly is "nationally known," then many of us would know who the person is. Even if we haven't read their "bestselling" books or haven't attended their "nationally known" seminars, we would at least recognize their first or last name, or we would know what they do, at least vaguely. As in, "He's that guy who gives car advice," or "She's that goofy baker."

That would be funny if some "nationally known" person was at a well-publicized function, introduced as such, and no one knew who the heck they were.


Separate them!

I was at the Christkindlmarket at the Daley Plaza downtown and saw a booth that was advertising "Glassornaments" from Germany. Note how it's one word. Germans like to string numerous adjectives and nouns together (unlike us English speakers, who know how to keep words separate) so that one word can take up an entire line in a newspaper. So I guess they thought that "glass ornaments" should be a compound word as well.

Well, folks, study your English! We're not as compound-happy as you are!


About the name

Some people might be wondering what happened to my signature name. The new one is actually a name I use at a couple of message boards, so it's not like I had to think hard about it.

There are a couple reasons why I changed: I was sick of the old name, and since I haven't published any fiction yet, it's sort of dumb to use it at this point, but it's also because people coming here from my offline life might be confused, since they know me by my married name.

If things start to develop in the coming year, I might have to start using my first name, which would not be a big deal, except for the fact that I see this blog as an enjoyable endeavor, not just an extension of my work. Some blogs are set up to enhance people's professional pursuits, but I keep this blog going because I love language and want to write about it (among other stuff, which is just as enjoyable).

So there's work writing/translating/editing/whatever, fiction writing (which may never see the light of day), and blog writing. It's nice to have an alternative space to exist in.


German dictionaries and advent

Stop the presses! Someone sent me a link to what may be the best online German dictionary from TU Chemnitz (Technische Universität Chemnitz).

There's also a link to the Wortschatz Project, another dictionary that's helpful if you can decifer all that German.

And of course, they haven't forgotten the popular LEO online German dictionary, which also includes a link to an online English etymology dictionary (which I'm sure a lot of people already know about).

There's even a link to American English pronunciation, which would be helpful for the non-native English speakers out there who want an alternative to the online British English that seems to be quite popular and well-funded.

And there's another treat: an advent calendar. If you're not satisfied with that, you can get another advent calendar through LEO, which is a creation of Technische Universität München. (By the way, LEO means "Link Everything Online.")

So bookmark all these links and enjoy! I really need to get back to studying German, now that the Japanese test has passed. My German is very lame right now.


Deaver survives

Last night I went to see John Deaver in A Christmas Story at the Steel Beam Theater (which is in St. Charles, one of my favorite towns in Chicagoland). He plays Ralph, the narrator, who spends the entire show talking and talking and talking (which makes me wonder if the playright was too lazy to try showing more than telling so much).

So John had to memorize thousands of words--well over 6000. It's as if he had to recite an entire book. I don't know how he was able to do that, and I let him know that I was impressed. This was his reply:

My greatest fear is that someday thirty years from now I'll be a senile old fart sitting in the nursing home. Someone will play the song 'Here Comes Santa Claus' on the radio, I'll launch into my lines from 'A Christmas Story' and they won't be able to get me to stop until I have recited all 6,260 words. Of course, since there won't be anyone to provide the rest of the dialog, I probably won't be able to proceed unless someone feeds me my cues. I'll freeze up and go catatonic while waiting for Flick and Schwartz to say their lines.

Well, at least he survived and was able to remain funny.

When the grass is greener

It's funny: when I don't have much downtime, I want to write (fiction), but when I *do* have time, I don't want to start writing. Once I get started, it's great, but it's hard to get into that mode. I think it's because there's no one out there waiting for it. So if I don't write, the only person who will be disappointed is me. And what's the big deal? I can do something else that will make up for that disappointment.

I still think that writing fiction without any hopes of anyone in the Publishing Industrial Complex (PIC) looking at it is like writing in a vacuum, echoing in a cave, clapping with one hand. I might have a contact, but it's not like they've asked for my stuff. So that means that I have to make it as perfect as possible to get rejected.

It shouldn't matter, but it does. And now that Nanowrimo is over, there's no deadline to meet. Actually, I often create my own deadlines and goals which are good motivators, but they're not public things. So it's like, "I'm going on this trek, and I don't know if I'm going to get back, but have a nice day."


It's true!

Snopes has confirmed that the cool Christmas lights display is true. (I first saw the video via Mad Minerva.)

Carson Williams, the homeowner, is a really smart and talented guy. Not only did he synchronize thousands of lights to music, but he also created a short-range FM broadcast so that the neighbors would not be bothered by the noise. So you're in your car, you see the cool display, and a sign tells you to tune into the "station" to hear the music. That's quite a feat!

Unfortunately, because of all the media and online hype, he's had to shut the display down because there was an accident and too much traffic in front of his house.

The story also has another weird and ironic and tragic (for those who care) twist: the band who created the music, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, is on tour, and a couple of days ago when they were in Cincinnati (south of where Williams is from), many people could not show up because of the weather.

So can you imagine being in Ohio, seeing the video and the TV coverage, going to his house to check out the display, purchasing tickets to a concert, and then not being able to get there? I'm sure the people who couldn't make it were devastated.


Pocky decoded?

A while ago, I talked about how much I like Men's Pocky and Milk Tea. I went to a Japanese store yesterday and was able to find the Men's Pocky, but the brand of Milk Tea that I like wasn't there. Could it be gone forever?

As I was trying not to be too disappointed about the disappearance of my favorite Milk Tea, it occurred to me that the word "Pocky" could be a reference to the giongo/gitaigo word "pokipoki," which means "The sound or appearance of many long, thin objects being bent."

At least it still tastes good, even though I'm not a man.


Funny guy!

Orny Adams is hilarious--I saw him in Comedian. They didn't show much of his stand-up routine, and even though it was funny, I found the way he *is* is funny. He's self-deprecating and shares his misery and struggles, but how he says everything is laugh-causing, not pitiful or annoying.

You can get a glimpse of his interesting thoughts at his Notebook. Here are a couple of examples:

People tell me I need to live in the moment. Well the moment sucks. So I’m living in the future. The future has hope. The moment is overrated. Sometimes I live in the past. Because I don’t realize how good the moment was at that time. But later I do and so… I’m living in the moment- just a later.

I don’t like commercials that use a real chicken to sell chicken. I don’t need to see the before to enjoy the after. The before makes me sick, the after makes me full. I don’t even like the site of uncooked chicken. A raw egg makes me sick. But a cooked egg makes me happy.

He ends up developing those ideas for his shows. Actually, he spends several hours writing and seems to work hard. It must be very difficult to write well enough to make people laugh for an hour, or even five minutes.


Anno domini

Someone asked me what A.D. means and when it began. Here's what Wikipedia says:

Anno Domini (Latin: "In the Year of the Lord"), or more completely Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi ("In the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ"), commonly abbreviated AD or A.D., is the designation used to number years in the dominant Christian Era in the world today.

...The Anno Domini system was developed by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus (a Scythian) in Rome in 525, as an outcome of his work on calculating the date of Easter.

...Almost all Biblical scholars believe that Dionysius was incorrect in his calculation, and that the date claimed for Jesus' birth was between 8 BC and 4 BC. The latest bound for the birth of Christ is the death of Herod the Great which occurred in 4 BC.

In case you're wondering, I have no idea what "bound" means in that context. It must be a typo at the Wikipedia site.


Termium plus

When Language Hat mentioned my post about Le grand dictionnaire, Arrogant Polyglot, "a Translator and a francophile fanatique," offered a link to another helpful online French dictionary: Termium Plus. You can get definitions of phrases, not just words, which is quite helpful for translating texts. Or you can get synonyms.

AP added:

And while we're on the subject of French, I should also mention another powerful online tool. It's an online grammar and spellchecker for speakers of French (native or not). The tool, www.lepatron.ca, is a writing assistant rather than a corrector. Rather than correcting grammar and spelling errors automatically, it flags mistakes thereby allowing the user to introduce their own changes.

As I'm not a "francophile fanatique" like he is, I don't need that site, but it's still very cool in case you want to write correct emails and other French text.


May be premature but...

Something good might be in my future, but I'm not sure yet. But I'll mention it anyway, even though it might be premature. I joined an ESL organization and was telling someone about a writing class that I created and all the research I had to do, since no resources existed at the time (though there are a few now), and she suggested I submit a proposal for their conference. So after I square away Japanese studying and sleep, I'm going to go for it.

If I manage to impress them, I might be doing something cool in the spring, and I'll provide more details if it happens. If nothing develops, then I'll go back to my normal, uneventful life. Well, it's not uneventful, but it's not PR-worthy at the moment.



I stumbled upon an entertaining (and apparently popular) blog, Veiled Conceit, "A glimpse into that haven of superficial, pretentious, pseudo-aristocratic vanity: The NY Times' Wedding & Celebration Announcements."

I don't like to read a lot of swearing or vulgarity, so other than that aspect of it, it's funny and fresh. The guy checks out wedding announcements of successful people and then offers commentary on the pictures and the content.

Like the one about the Nobel Prize winner: "Don't you think it's time to stop milking this 'Nobel Prize,' Joe? I mean, you didn't even win the full prize, since you had to share it with two other people."

He also offers harsh commentary of famous people, such as Jerry Seinfeld's wife and her ex-husband (a marriage that hardly made it past the honeymoon). This is part of what he accused her of:

1. Marry rich guy (Nederlander).
2. Use Reebok Club membership he bought you to meet guys at gym.
3. See Jerry Seinfeld and realize he's waaaay richer than your current beau.
4. "Seal the deal" with Seinfeld and hitch your wagon to his gravy train.
5. "Nederlander who?"

He even writes haiku to accompany a photo of a doctor and lawyer: "Their faces so bright/Necks of mock-turtle and 'V'/Mildly Attractive."

There's not much to know about the blogger, as his FAQ shows, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets discovered and ends up writing a book or column, or for a successful show or something that will most likely take him deeper into New York society or even to L.A.